Med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion saved Leah Ru­mack from a near-fa­tal in­fec­tion, but deal­ing with the af­ter­math takes her to the desert.

Fashion (Canada) - - The Brief -

After in­juries side­line two writ­ers, one finds re­cov­ery in a desert oa­sis, the other in the snowy moun­tains of Que­bec.

I’M ON A PLANE. IT’S A YEAR TO THE DAY SINCE I WAS LY­ING IN A GRIMY hos­pi­tal, hav­ing mor­phine-in­duced hal­lu­ci­na­tions of a mag­i­cal door lead­ing to a cruise ship down the hall if only I could stand long enough to get there. I’d ended up in the ICU be­cause I was so run down, I let a scrape get so in­fected that I nearly had to have my arm am­pu­tated to keep me from dy­ing. »

I start see­ing weird flashes of colour and feel nau­seous. Then I get up and vomit all over her tiny, pretty treat­ment-room sink.

Yes, a scrape. Yes, I still have my arm. No, I didn’t die. But that re­bel­lion of my im­mune sys­tem, al­ready de­pleted from on­go­ing is­sues with in­som­nia, stress and chronic pain, left me in a last­ing weak­ened state and ig­nited an ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis with a soupçon of PTSD on the side. Since then, I’ve tried acupunc­ture, mas­sage, os­teopa­thy, phys­io­ther­apy, med­i­ta­tion and cog­ni­tive be­havioural ther­apy. I pop painkillers and sleep­ing pills like they’re gum­mies. What­ever I try, and what­ever I’m told, I’m still defini­tively Not Well. “What do I need? A frickin’ shaman?” I say to my hus­band.

Well, maybe I do. I’m a cynic—but a des­per­ate one. So when I’m in­vited on a whis­tle-stop tour of off-the-beaten-path treat­ments at lux­ury spas in Scotts­dale, Ariz., I fig­ure there couldn’t be a bet­ter way to com­mem­o­rate my “ar­mver­sary.” Be­sides, Scotts­dale is in the mag­i­cal desert, which has worked for mys­tics of ev­ery stripe for thou­sands of years. If the treat­ment sounds weird, I sign up for it. My menu in­cludes cra­nial sacral ther­apy, hyp­nother­apy, singing bowl ther­apy and a tarot card read­ing.

My first stop is Joya Spa at the Omni Scotts­dale Re­sort & Spa at Mon­telu­cia. I’m here for the cra­nial sacral ther­apy, which the web­site de­scribes as a “holis­tic prac­tice us­ing very light, in­tu­itive pres­sure to gen­tly re­lease re­stric­tions in­flu­enc­ing the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem.” My ther­a­pist tells me that the light touch af­fects the pres­sure and cir­cu­la­tion of the fluid around the brain and spinal cord, help­ing re­lieve pain and dys­func­tion while kick-start­ing the body’s own heal­ing. “Vi­bra­tional ther­apy is the big­gest thing now,” she tells me. “When the cells heal, it ben­e­fits the over­all body.” I lie down on the mas­sage table. She holds my head for about 50 min­utes, and I spend about half that time wish­ing I’d got­ten a mas­sage in­stead. I start see­ing weird flashes of colour and feel nau­seous. Then I get up and vomit all over her tiny, pretty treat­ment-room sink.

“That’s good!” says my thrilled ther­a­pist, clap­ping her hands. She ex­plains that throw­ing up is a sign that the body is work­ing through its ail­ments. She also tells me that I may feel off or emo­tional for the next day or so. I’m happy to

re­port that I find my­self ran­domly weep­ing co­pi­ously that night in my room at the Fair­mont Scotts­dale Princess.

That af­ter­noon, I re­port for my singing bowl ther­apy ses­sion at the Fair­mont’s Well & Be­ing Spa. It’s de­scribed as an an­cient sound-heal­ing prac­tice that har­nesses the body’s own vi­bra­tional prop­er­ties on a cel­lu­lar level. (Gah, more vi­bra­tions! I hope I don’t throw up!) “The bowls can be used to ac­ti­vate the chakras and re­move en­ergy blocks to pro­mote good health,” reads the menu.

“Ti­betan monks use these like we use ibupro­fen,” my ther­a­pist tells me of the set of metal singing bowls, which range in size from fin­ger bowl to soup tureen. “You’re go­ing to be hear­ing your song—your mu­sic. If some­thing is stuck, the bowl won’t ring; it will just go ‘dink.’” “Okey-dokey!” I say cheer­fully and lie down on the table. She places some of the bowls around me and on me, nes­tled in my crotch or bal­anced on my chest; oth­ers she car­ries, hold­ing them close to my body and strik­ing them with a mal­let. They peal like bells. It’s like stand­ing in front of a loud­speaker at a con­cert: I can feel the sound waves. She gets to the spot in my Death Arm where the in­fec­tion be­gan. “Dink,” the bowl says sadly. “Oh,” she says, brows fur­rowed. “What’s go­ing on here?” She keeps whack­ing the bowl gen­tly with her mal­let un­til it even­tu­ally starts to, well, sing. Am I healed?

The next day, I visit The Phoenician’s new spa. I pad­dle around in the crys­talline rooftop pool be­fore my Il­lu­mi­na­tion Through Tarot ses­sion. My guide, Cyn­thia, doesn’t want me to tell her what an­swer I’m look­ing for; she wants me to tell the cards. I shuf­fle the deck while won­der­ing, “Deck, will I ever get bet­ter?” We lay out sev­eral rounds of cards.

“‘Har­mony, bal­ance and health re­stored’ keeps show­ing up,” Cyn­thia tells me. (Thank you, deck!)

That night, I check in at the glam­orous Sanc­tu­ary on Camel­back Moun­tain Re­sort & Spa—an av­er­age lit­tle place where my best friend Bey­oncé went for her hon­ey­moon. I’m there for some hyp­nother­apy at the re­sort’s spa. I sum up the past year of my life for Kay, a cer­ti­fied hyp­nother­a­pist.

“Well,” she con­cludes. “One visit isn’t go­ing to fix all that! But we may be able to start peel­ing away lay­ers of the onion.”

And that is all I can say about this par­tic­u­lar onion, which re­port­edly in­volved a men­tal body scan, some guided im­agery and imag­in­ing my pain just “whoosh­ing” away, be­cause I don’t re­mem­ber any­thing. But what I will re­mem­ber the next time I go for hyp­no­sis is to press “record” on my phone be­fore I start whoosh­ing.

Af­ter­wards, I float on my back in one of the re­sort’s many pools, star­ing at the sky. I don’t feel that phys­i­cally changed, but I have a re­newed sense of de­ter­mi­na­tion. I start mak­ing plans for all the things I’m go­ing to do (start physio again, med­i­tate, try cut­ting those pills in half...).

I’m go­ing to do it. I’m go­ing to win at this get­ting bet­ter. The desert told me so.



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